Ghana rural agrovets go digital

The use of technology has permeated into many professional facets including in the provision of services to rural communities in the developing world. Increasingly, as we become a culture that is connected to everyone and everything and ubiquitously online, every business is finding ways of connecting to their customers and small-scale livestock producers are no exception. A new mobile platform is set to revolutionise how veterinary medicines and vaccines are accessed and managed by agrovets in Ghana. Zhulia – which means tribe in the local dialect, was recently launched by Cowtribe, GALVmed’s partner in West Africa, as a business-to-business (B2B) platform that allows rural agrovets to source and order animal health products such as vaccines, medications, feed, and other supplies directly from distributors and manufacturers with just a tap of a button. The platform is loaded with features that rural retail agrovets need including inventory management and product catalogues and their prices. The agrovets can also view request for products from the fulfilment chain and ongoing sales coming in from the point of sales application.

Agrovets are key in the agriculture value chain because they not only enable farmers to access inputs, they also fill agro-extension gaps. In your typical rural agrovet store, one would find agricultural and veterinary products sourced from multiple distributors and manufacturers from different geographical regions. Many of them rely on paper-based inventory tracking methods resulting in inaccuracies, delays, and repeat stock-outs which ultimately stifle business growth for these small retailers. This is where Zhulia comes in, to provide a convenient platform that will enable agrovets to efficiently manage their retail services. Through the platform, they can access products from multiple suppliers and timely monitor their stock so as to avoid a gap in the supply chain. Zhulia can be accessed as a web application to manage the activities of an agrovet shop and as an offline mobile application that enables agrovets with no internet access to conduct their sales efficiently.

A number of agrovets across five regions in Ghana are already signed up to the platform and can now access products from five large scale distributors. The process of registering more agrovets, distributors and manufacturers is ongoing.

The team at Cowtribe have taken the laborious bookkeeping experiences off the hands of rural agrovets and provided much more that simply can’t be accomplished in a book – a gateway to suppliers of high-quality products. They have provided a native but innovative solution that will bring livestock products closer to small-scale livestock producers.

Written by Beatrice Ouma

Focusing on small-scale livestock producers as a collective market

If you think you are too small to make a difference, try sleeping in a closed room with a mosquito. African proverb.

Nearly 600 million of the world’s poorest households raise animals as an essential source of income (FAO). Their domestic economy depends on the animals they raise and, access to quality medicines and veterinary services are a limiting factor in the survival of animals and ultimately to the livelihood of their families.

Although the individual contribution, in terms of production, of these small-scale producers (SSPs) is minimal, collectively, they account for the majority of the livestock’s head in Africa and South Asia. Due to the low scale, the limited purchasing capacity and large geographical dispersion, they have not been in the strategic focus of most manufacturers of veterinary products, being “neglected” by the industry without identifying the great market opportunity that they could represent.

At GALVmed we know the value of these small producers and we realise the tremendous positive impact that just access to good quality vaccines and veterinary services would have in the survival of their animals and in their domestic economies. We believe in the opportunity they represent as a collective population, not only in terms of protein’s production or poverty reduction but also about SSPs’ contribution to environmental sustainability, which is one of the biggest issues faced by mankind at present.

The world is changing at high speed, innovative approaches with the help of new technologies have managed to solve great challenges that humanity had until now. Does it make sense today to accept that the situation of these small producers cannot change?

The implementation of GALVmed’s Veterinary Innovations Transforming Animal health and Livelihoods (VITAL) initiatives is giving us confidence about the future, the confirmation that this situation could change, and new areas of investment as part of the new strategy foundation. Improvement of SSPs product availability is a realistic target and will drive better lives for millions of people.

Written by Enrique Hernández, Director, Commercial Development.

How technology can transform animal health

According to FAO, livestock related food items account for about 30% of agriculture related GDP in Africa. This is with the exclusion of other contributions such as manure, draught power and transportation. When we consider that 75% of sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) human population is involved either directly or indirectly in farming activities (FAO 2013;2014), it becomes apparent that livestock farming is an important aspect of human development in the region. Livestock diseases however pose a significant barrier to growth with losses thought to be much higher in SSA than the global average of 20% (AU-IBAR). It also limits access to foreign markets through the export of live animals and livestock products.

Pharmaceutical companies generally focus their resources in the developed markets where they derive most of their revenues. For instance, the US commands 43% of the market ( This has led to gaps on the availability of animal health products in SSA that meet farmer needs as well as supply challenges to last mile level. GALVmed aims to evidence that commercial benefit could be realised by operating in this space with the aim of attracting industry players. To this end, technology is emerging as a key enabler which could transform the animal health industry in Africa.

Technology can be used to build infrastructure and tools linking players in the industry. As an example, GALVmed has partnered with cloud-based, animal health product distribution company Cowtribe, to supply rural agrovet retail shops in Ghana which have historically been underserved, with quality animal health inputs competitively. A business to business (B2B) e-commerce platform called Zhulia has been developed allowing agrovets to order animal health inputs with just a tap of a button. Through this platform, orders can be aggregated immediately leading to quantity related discounts translating to lower cost of goods. This also allows for developing of route plans for delivery of the ordered products as agrovets will be mapped in real time. Agrovets can now better manage their inventory, manage sales, enjoy competitive pricing and other related benefits as this has created an ecosystem of actors in the industry.

Data analytics can also unlock tremendous value for animal health industry players. A combination of online behaviour, media reports, GIS and internal data could be used to predict which products will be needed when, where and by who. It could also predict disease outbreaks which could be useful in informing proactive interventions. Signals from internet searches and media could also serve as early indicators of safety of certain products.

As digital health technologies continue to become an integral part of the solution, those working in the livestock sector need to adapt, as such technologies have the potential to greatly increase access, control quality, safety and cost-effectiveness of animal health inputs.

Written by Tom Osebe, Senior Manager, Commercial Development in Africa

Biosecurity: a must for rural and emerging commercial poultry farmers

The World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE) defines biosecurity as a set of management and physical measures designed to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of animal diseases, infections or infestations to, from and within an animal population. The growing importance of poultry in developing countries and the emergence of new zoonotic pathogens, like Highly Pathogenic Avian Influenza (HPAI), has highlighted the importance and the need to implement biosecurity measures in backyard and rural poultry farms to minimise human health risks and economic losses.

Poor management practices and absence of disease control strategies often result in high levels of mortality due to predators or infectious diseases. Diseases such as Newcastle Disease (ND), Salmonellosis, Gumboro disease or Fowl typhoid, continue to erode the productivity of rural poultry farmers, depriving them of an important protein source.

Although there is no single biosecurity plan suitable or applicable to all farms, a plan for each farm must include measures and steps implemented in mitigation of identified risks, and broadly include isolation, traffic control and sanitation.  It should aim to minimize or prevent introduction of disease-causing agents and protect animals from predators and vermin infestation.

Potential disease sources include, but are not limited to; people, equipment, supplies, vehicles, wild animals, pets, feed, water supplies, dropping and manure. Some preventive measures are, for example, to build suitable housing and physical barriers (fences), control and restriction of people movement, or cleaning and sanitation (including disinfecting poultry houses, people and equipment and foot bath). These controls could go a long way to reduce the risk of introduction, establishment and spread of animal diseases, infections or infestations.

GALVmed has partnered with LAPROVET in Senegal in a project that amongst others, aims to promote prophylaxis practices and biosecurity measures to retailers and farmers. Participating farms and farmers are initially audited to establish a baseline and to identify potential risks. A prophylactic (vaccination) and biosecurity plan is drawn and the farm re-audited every 6 months to ensure compliance and measure improvements. In addition, field trainings to promote prophylaxis practices and biosecurity measures are conducted for veterinarians and farmers. The project has also produced an educational video on biosecurity.  

Biosecurity is often a standard practice in commercial farms, however, the sustainable implementation in rural and emerging commercial farms requires raising farmers’ awareness and knowledge regarding these measures.

Written by Thembinkosi Ramuthivheli, Senior Manager, Commercial Development in Africa

Demand aggregation: The key to reaching small-scale livestock producers

Majority of the animal production in south Asia and sub-Saharan Africa is scattered. They have traditionally been operated by millions of small-scale producers (SSPs). The number of animals kept by SSPs are few – ranging from one to hundreds. Many of these animals die due to preventable infectious diseases before attaining maturity and those entering productive and reproductive age produce less due to compromised animal health care. Availability of animal health products in SSPs areas is inadequate, greatly affecting the livelihood of SSPs.

Despite the small-scale livestock production supporting the livelihoods of 600 million smallholder farmers in the developing world, animal health product companies have not been able to fully tap into the SSPs market preferring to do business with the small commercial animal production market. Any mechanism to open up and fully take advantage of the SSPs animal health market can help animal health companies grow their business many folds, leading to higher levels of animal health product use and enhanced productivity. This will in turn lead to higher investment in animal health.

In regions where GALVmed is actively working with animal health companies to facilitate availability of animal health products to SSPs, one of the challenges realized from the beginning was the low demand of animal health products due to scattered nature of animal keeping by SSPs. This increased the cost of distribution for the companies and less interest in the SSPs market segment. However, there are innovative ways animal health companies can access the SSPs market reliably.  One example is through engaging with dairy cooperatives which connect these companies to a large number of SSPs and offer them a demand for animal products in an appreciable volume. Women organized in self-help groups is another example through which demand is aggregated to attract the companies. Such examples of demand aggregation indicate a very potentially viable market platform that can benefit both animal health companies and SSPs.

Demand aggregation for animal health products can use different forms of input /output driven or other purpose platforms but it should be able to attract SSPs, veterinary service providers, and animal health companies.  Working with a women self-help group in one of GALVmed’s project areas in India has been instrumental in the uptake of Peste des petits ruminants (PPR) vaccine. The project trained a woman vaccinator to work with the self-help group and the demand for the vaccine from the local veterinary retail shop has significantly increased. Companies that were not selling vaccines through such outlets previously have now recognized this opportunity for their business expansion.

Currently there is a red ocean type of competition among animal health companies to penetrate commercially operating markets like poultry and dairy. But there exist vast and never reached or very less reached blue ocean of SSPs market segment. Such SSPs market can also be lucrative if the demand is aggregated through an appropriate platform. Demand aggregation can lead to entry into a market not served before. SSPs can get the same level of animal health input as commercial animal farming.

Written by Peetambar Kushwaha, Senior Manager, Commercial Development, Asia